For the penultimate event of the season the European Tour head back to South Africa for the 5th time this year, but this time to compete for the Nedbank Golf Challenge, hosted by Gary Player and played on the Gary Player Country Club Course. This is once again an event that Rolex have been more than happy to sponsor and with that, as with all the events prior it brings the best about out to play but this time to compete for a slightly increased prize fund of $7,500,000
Frequently voted as the best course in South Africa this is one destination I would love to visit if ever the chance came about. The 7,831 yard par 72 layout designed by Gary Player at Sun City is set within a volcanic crater and surrounded by the natural beauty of Pilanesberg National Park. Not only can you expect to see incredible golf here but were often graced by the presence of the local wildlife and I have no doubt there will be plenty of David Attenborough still moments to savour as well whilst watching the coverage.
Although this is the second longest course on tour this year and has extremely receptive fairways, it does sit over a 1,000 meters above sea level. That added altitude and warmer air were forecast for will help the ball travel much further and bring all of the lengthy holes into score-able opportunities for the entire field. It will also mean that the bigger hitters will on occasion be forced to take less of the tee to find position.
Key to playing this course is quite simple, keep the ball in play at all costs, venture to far off line and it could be more than a ball you lose in the jungle. Play the correct club off the tee to avoid the bunkers, no need to bomb it everywhere if you have a solid mid iron game. Hit as many greens in regulation as you can and stay patient... The birdies will come and in there abundance if your rolling the ball well on these greens.
As to be expected we have an extremely good field lined up for this event. With Rory and Garcia as this years big name attractions.
70 man field, with no cut.
Key stats and Strategy
Par 5 Scoring - With this again being a reduced field and no cut event it is crucial that your players score well with birdie or better points. Nearly 50% of the birdies made on this course in previous years have come from its 4 par 5's.
Ball striking - Although bigger hitter have an advantage on this layout especially with those par 5's, it has proven to be more important to avoid bogeys and find greens in regulation to stay competitive. Playing at altitude takes care of the distance issues and a player who creates plenty of chances should find themselves sniffing around for a big pay day.
Playing at Altitude - There are players out there that really adapt well to playing at altitude and that couldn't be more clearly displayed when looking at the form of these players at locations like Mexico, Switzerland and the 3 other high altitude locations in South Africa.
Course Fit and Form - Rather than look to much into history which can be massively misleading if looking further back when the field was considerably smaller than what it currently is. It may serve better to look at a players course fit and there form.. We have seen many debut visiting wins at this venue and a high percentage of the field will be playing this event for the first time.
Hot Putter - Look for those that seem to be rolling the ball in for fun, the surfaces at this course are pure and we should see a good number of putts made from longer distances. especially on the Par 4's and 3's where getting the ball close to the hole can prove to be difficult.
Sergio Garcia $11,500
$9,000 - $10,000
Matthew Fitzpatrick $9,400
Tom Lewis $9,100
$8,000 - $9,000
Danny Willett $9,000
Lucas Bjerregaard $8,900
Dylan Fritteli $8,100
$7,000 - $8,000
Matt Wallace $7,800
Erik Van Rooyen $7,600
Thomas Detry $7,100
$7,000 or less
Nicolas Colsaerts $7,000
Thomas Aiken $6,700
Oli Fisher $6,300